Individuals and families have different Christmas traditions that they hold dear.
In the United States some of the common traditions that are shared between families are gift exchanges, brightly decorated trees (though more and more are artificial), parties with family and friends, and Christmas programs at church.
Now that I have a family of my own, my wife and I have discussed what Christmas traditions we would like to create for our children. We want fun traditions, but we also want meaningful traditions. Traditions like reading the Christmas story before opening presents, eating oyster soup on Christmas Eve, using an Advent wreath, having Santa gifts in our stockings, going to a Christmas Eve service, placing a dragon in a nativity, and visiting grandparents.
We live in a time, especially in the Church, where tradition isn’t always appreciated. I want to remind us that there is nothing wrong with traditions. Traditions can play a very important part in our lives. The main reason what traditions are important is because thy help focus our attention when we are distracted. I believe this is why God provided the Israelites with the different holy days and feasts. They, like all people, needed help to focus on what was important.
God gave the Church two important traditions to help us focus on what is important: baptism and communion. When used properly traditions play an important part in our lives.
This is the key: when used properly.
We know that the Jews eventually got to the point when they focused on the traditions and forgot about the meaning behind the traditions. I think the same danger plagues Christians when it comes to Christmas. We get caught up in the traditions of Christmas, and we forget that Christmas reminds us of the hope in Jesus Christ. Christmas tells us that God keeps His promise.
We get the first glimpse of God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 to send Jesus. This promise is woven through the rest of the Old Testament. It is the foundation to the promise God makes to Abraham to bless all the nations of the world through his descendants, and it is in the background for many of the prophecies. It was a long time in coming, but eventually, at just the right time, God kept His promise, and Jesus was born.
In Matthew 1:22 we read these great words: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet. Christmas should point us to God and the fact that He has worked through history to restore His creation. The birth of Jesus is evidence that God kept His promise in the past, which means we can trust Him to keep His promise in the future.
Don’t allow your Christmas traditions to distract you from worshipping the promise keeping God of the Bible. Take some time during the holiday rush to pause and think about the reasons behind all the traditions. Use your traditions to focus on Jesus and the God who keeps His promises.